Team GB chief in confident mood ahead of ‘most inspirational’ Paris Olympics

The Paris Olympics will be a “knock it out of the park spectacular” experience for Team GB athletes, their chef de mission has said.

Wednesday marks one year to go until the Games opening ceremony, and Mark England is confident the building blocks for success are being put in place for what is set to be the closest thing to a home Games for a generation.

“This will feel like a home Games and I think we need to talk about it as being a home Games,” England said.

“We won’t have all the home advantages that the French team will have but we’re very, very confident in what we’ve got in place.

“I think (the athletes) will find it the most inspirational and exciting Games they have ever been in. There’ll be a smattering of London 2012 Olympians there, but this will be knock it out of the park spectacular for those in their first or second Games, which is the lion’s share of them.

“They are in Europe, in their own time zone give or take, and with an opportunity to move quite freely between Paris and the rest of Britain.”

England said marginally under 50 athletes were qualified so far for the Games, and was confident ultimately 350 to 375 athletes would compete for medals.

Asked whether the ‘home’ environment might be the catalyst for a bigger medal haul than Tokyo, where the team finished fourth, England said: “I think we’ve got a great opportunity to be the top European nation again, despite the fact that the home nation is very, very strong and getting stronger for a whole variety of reasons.

“So top European nation, top five are our aspirations. I know that we are medal-competitive in a significant number of sports. I think we’ve got all of those building blocks, notwithstanding we’ve got another 12 months to build on that.”

Paris 2024 file photo

England are hoping to be the top European country in the medal count at the 2024 Paris Olympics (Mike Egerton, PA)

England has already “kicked the tyres” on Team GB’s training bases in St Germain-en-Laye and Reims, plus the Performance Lodge in Clichy.

As well as being a training facility, England said the Lodge will serve as a place where athletes who wish to will have the opportunity to spend time with loved ones to boost preparations, something denied to them in Tokyo due to the strict Covid-19 protocols in place.

Concerns have been raised about security for the Games in Paris, amid riots in the French capital this summer and the terrorism threat level for the city still rated as severe.

Team GB athletes will be equipped with an emergency response app, but England said: “We’re in good shape. (The app) is absolutely nothing that we haven’t done before, and we used it extensively in Rio (in 2016).

“Our security footprint is no greater, no less than any other previous Games.”

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